Time hasn’t always been kind to Kittie, and Kittie hasn’t always been kind to themselves, either. On the surface, it’s not difficult to understand why the band distanced themselves for a while from Spit, their debut record that catapulted them into the spotlight, and the nu-metal subgenre as a whole. Written and recorded while the band was still in high school, it’s a time capsule of a very specific time and place in their lives, and the state of metal at the cusp of the new millennium. Despite dripping in anger and lacking anything resembling finesse or subtlety, Kittie’s Spit is getting the redemption arc it always deserved, thanks to millennials passing the torch (and their JNCO jeans) to Gen Z, with whom the record resonates again like it’s 1999. Go to a basement show in New Jersey in 2024, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear “Brackish” or “Paperdoll” from a new young band. Spit was the soundtrack to my teenage years – it’s only fitting that Kittie has learned to embrace Spit again in recent years.

By the time Oracle came out, Kittie had shifted to a more death metal sound, and I had also moved on to more extreme forms of metal. In many ways, my musical taste echoed Kittie’s output. Though Morgan and Mercedes Lander generally consider 2009’s In the Black to be the band’s finest hour, I’ve always considered their 2011 swan song I’ve Failed You to be their best work. By then, however, Kittie had largely fallen out of the public eye and the band was laid to rest. Until, at least, the Kittie logo was inconspicuously added to a handful of festival flyers in 2022, including that year’s edition of the When We Were Young festival, serving as a catalyst for a full-blown reunion and brand new record. That record, entitled Fire, is a triumphant return for the Lander sisters and longtime guitarist Tara McLeod and bassist Ivy Jenkins.

Kicking off with the title track, “Fire” takes the Oracle and Until the End sound and brings it into 2024. It’s fierce and bass-heavy, with Ivy tasked with swinging the weight of this song around, a rally for the rest of the record to follow – a fantastic opening track. Beginning and ending with a solo Morgan scream, “I Still Wear This Crownreally highlights Morgan’s vocals, and her clean and death vocals are blending more seamlessly here than they’ve ever done in the past. It feels familiar yet refined – and to set the bar this high on track two is bold.

By the time you reach track three, “Falter,” you realize that all of these arrangements are incredibly concise. There’s no filler to be found. If it didn’t groove, it probably met the cutting room floor. “Falter” flirts with Kittie’s nu-metal vibe (and stylistically reminiscent of Eths’ 2004 classic Soma) without leaning too far into it. Moving into the middle of the record, we’re hit with two of the album’s pre-release singles, “Vultures” and “We Are Shadows.” The former really echoes old-school Kittie vibes, particularly in the chorus melody. If they didn’t already publicly state that they weren’t re-working any unreleased material from 2009, I would’ve guessed that this track was the product of an earlier era. Though “We Are Shadows” is a vocal-driven song, it places Mercedes upfront as much as Morgan. Her drumming has always had a unique flair to it, and her kick drum work was always more interesting than the “put double bass everywhere” approach that’s been common for decades now. Despite being a distinctly metal drummer, Mercedes’ drumming has always been groovy and tasteful and not showy for the sake of showy. Oracle might have cemented her as one of my favorite drummers in the genre, but her work here demonstrates a more mature and refined side.

“Wound” marks the shortest song on the album at just under three minutes, but one of the most effective. While Kittie has never been a guitar-solo-focused band, Tara’s bluesy guitar solo here really leaves you wanting more. Tara’s not a typical shredder, generally opting for a heavy Les Paul slung over her shoulder and more melodic leads. While her solos are few and far between, the arrangements on Fire seem to consciously serve her style better than they have in the past. But at this point, the album is just flying by – no-nonsense, no riff is overstaying its welcome, and the band is completely locked in. It’s almost a record full of singles – which is not surprising since four tracks were released before the record. “One Foot in the Grave” warrants multiple listens – one to focus on the obvious Tara and Morgan upfront, but a second to really appreciate Ivy in sync with Mercedes, laying down the groove for this song.

“Are You Entertained” is the first meaningfully slower track on the album, reigning in the pace just a bit, but at this point, the album is nearing the end. Along with the follow-up song, “Grime,” we hear the full range of Morgan’s voice and a new depth to her death register that she’s never previously explored on record. Closing out the album is “Eyes Wide Open,” the very first single released earlier this year. This is peak Kittie – easily one of the strongest songs in their discography and hopefully a staple of their live sets to come. It’s the perfect conclusion to their comeback.

This is a band re-ignited, refreshed, and fully resurrected. Fire is a near-perfect record, not only for the old-school fans who’ve waited over a decade for this but for a younger, hungrier generation of metalheads. Despite the state of metal in 2024, Kittie doesn’t buck to any trend – this record is simultaneously heavy, accessible, and uncompromisingly Kittie.

Kittie Fire is available on June 21st via Sumerian Records.